Dear mission partners, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. There is so much happening it is difficult to know where to begin. This is why this newsletter has reached you a bit late this month. Please forgive us for the tardiness of this letter.
I haven’t blogged in a while. But today’s experience would have been too long as a fb post, but is also definitely a story worth sharing. If not for anything else, to help you pray for us and this country more specifically We have heard the many stories. The protests, the riots, or what they call here the “huelgas”. The word really means “a strike”. There are many days the kids here do not go to school because of them. Class is canceled and the teachers refuse to show up. They happen often and for various reasons. The people get together and protest in such a way as to send the government a message. I have seen the beginnings of one getting back from teaching at night in other towns. I have seen the aftermath of them. Tires and garbage burned in the street. Giant rocks and blocks thrown in the road to keep vehicles from passing through. But they aren’t as bad or as often in our town of Esperanza. At least not that I have seen yet.
Here in the Dominican Republic, as in most Spanish countries, they have a deep rooted Catholic background. Along with that comes all the superstitious beliefs, and unbiblical practices and stories handed down from generation to generation. Even within the Catholic church, the idols they pray to and make many frames and statues of, vary from country to country. In Cuba for instance they tend to focus more on San Lazaro, in my father’s home country of Mexico it’s la virgen de Guadalupe, there’s la virgin de Candelaria, and the list goes on. Here it’s la virgin de la Altagracia and of course one of their favorites, the divino niño (the divine child). All the different versions of the virgin Mary in each country come with the stories ( none of which are found in Scripture), of alleged appearances of her in different parts of the world and even in different colors. Sometimes she is black, white, or spanish.
Well, it’s been a while since we have blogged. It has been so hectic since our trip to the U.S., then getting back in the swing of things here in the DR, and now God has blessed us with a house (from a tiny apartment) that has a yard. God works things out. Someone here (who claims to know us and we have no idea who it is) knew someone else, who knew the owner of the house in New York, who decided to rent us the house and even dropped the rent to fit our small budget, because he has “heard good things about our family”. I have never met him or the people who know him! He even said this was a “God thing”, because he would never rent it that cheap and is very picky with who he rents to. I didn’t think we were even looking for another place, but my wife said she had been praying since we got back (the building we live in has no yard and the kids are stuck inside most of the time) and the Lord seemed to just put this place right in our lap. It is a nice house and has room for the kids to play in the back, which is very cool, but now comes the part I am sure everyone hates….moving. Oh well, not complaining, God has been so very gracious to us it doesn’t even make sense really. Thank you Lord.
Well, it’s Feb.22 and we have purchased our tickets for our trip back home. It will be here before we know it. We will be back in the states from March 28th – May 7th, and we have tons to figure out in that short period of time before we leave. With everything going on here, I am torn between leaving with so much work that still needs to be done, and the joy of spending time with family and friends back home. But this will be far from a vacation. We have churches we need to speak to about what God is doing here. The needs are great and the resources are few. It can be quite overwhelming at times (major understatement). We are asking for prayer, fervent prayer. We are asking that God would open new doors of opportunity for this ministry. We are so very thankful to the Lord for those who have stepped up to support us, they have indeed been faithful in their giving. We are also very thankful for all of the saints back home praying for us and the people of the D.R. Be sure that the very God on high, who dwells in unapproachable light, the very Creator Himself has heard and is hearing your prayers. We could tell you of many times we have requested prayer either through facebook, our newsletters, or this blog, and God has heard those prayers and given an answer to which we see the result here on our end. Let us stop and take a moment to thank God for His faithfulness to His people. Many times, unthankfulness itself can be a hindrance to our prayers, because we ask and ask, and because of our forgetful nature, many times we fail to see the many answered prayers and therefore forget to stop and give thanks. Let’s do that now. Thank you Father for inclining your ear to Your children’s cries and responding, forgive us for our unthankful hearts.
As my wife and I were preparing for our trip to the Haitian border this morning, as we began to share our thoughts, we found ourselves both still affected by and thinking about our visit with the young man who was very near death with his mother at his side yesterday. Those of you who follow us on facebook probably read our post. As usual, we went to Piedra Gorda in the afternoon to hold church service. Before we left, two sisters there asked if we would go with them and pray for a friend of theirs in Guatapanal (the next town over). When we arrived we quickly realized this young man was very ill and dying. His mother said he was not eating or drinking and he was very thin. It reminded me of another very similar vist 4 or 5 years back. It was Pastor Shawn Cutshall, his son Caleb and I, and we were asked by a neighbor if we were missionaries, and then if we would go and pray for a man who was dying. We shared the Gospel with him and his family and prayed with him. He died hours later. I have no doubt that was one of those divine appointments arranged by God. That was on a short term trip. But now we live here, ministering to these people, and now I find myself in a similar situation, with another grieving mother about to lose a son in the prime of his life in the same town. I have seen death first hand. I have seen disease wither somenone to practically nothing. I have been at that bedside begging God to have mercy on a particular individual. I have seen someone take their last breath and then die. For me it does not seem to get any easier. Although there is that hope we have in Christ, and we have the confidence when someone seems to be a genuine, born again, blood bought, child of God,…..but there are the others. The ones we do not know and we enter the situation to intercede in the final moments of a persons life before they take that step into eternity. Those are the hard ones.
Well it is Sunday afternoon and I am just sitting here thinking about all that God has done and is doing here. We have been here almost 5 months now and time is just flying. If you have been receiving our newsletters you know alot about what we have seen and been through in our short time here. Definetely too much to talk about in this blog, so here’s some of the current stuff. (If anyone would like to receive any of our previous or future newsletters send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on our email list.)